Tag Archives: YA Fantasy

The Young Eh-lites

I started this book (The Young Elites, Marie Lu) at the same time as 81JbgVO-5sL, and they started out so similarly I got really confused.  Both have lead girls who are supposedly ‘anti-heroes,’ sisters that are too nice and caring, and sadistic dads who try to sell their daughters into nasty marriages.

However, while Nyx was getting sold into demon sex slavery, Adelina Amouteru runs away from the old creepy dude her father has promised her to, and then accidentally murders her father with a horse.

I would think a horse murder would usually be written off as an accident, but in this world (or is it ancient Greece with a twist, I can’t tell), Adelina is a malfetto, a surivivor of a fever-sickness that left her with silver hair and missing an eye. I’ll be quite honest I’m not positive how you lose an eye because you have a high fever but WHATEVER and also even though she’s disfigured it’s important that Adelina is still hot because that’s where us girls get our real value, am I right? Continue reading


When Hitler Killed Jesus

urlThe first few chapters of Dark Eden I was on the fence.  The trees go ‘hmmmph hmmph’ like a million times.  They don’t have the adjective ‘very’ so the characters say things like ‘it was good good’ or ‘sad sad SAD.’

As you can imagine that gets annoying annoying fast.

My grievances aside, I ended up really liking this story.  It’s a nice departure from dystopian YA and twisted fairy tales, which I’ve been reading a bit too much of lately.

The story is set in Eden, a dark planet somewhere out in space.  A couple hundred years ago, three men and a ship called Defiant left Earth’s perimeter and jumped through space, landing on Eden.  Unexpectedly along for the ride were also two space police–Angela and Michael, who were trying to stop Defiant.

Though full of life, the planet has no sun, only plants and animals that give off light.  Unsure that their damaged ship will even make it back to Earth, Angela decides to stay on Eden with one of the 3 men of Defiant (Tommy).  They have several children, who have children, etc. until they’ve sired a family of 500+ really inbred folks. Continue reading

” Eat some more tarts and go pet your horse Feyre, this is as good as it’s going to get for you”

urlOk so I warned you that I’d be reviewing about fifty Beauty and the Beast knockoffs.  I mean that in a loving way, Sarah J Maas–I’ve been looking forward to your novel–A Court of Thorns and Roses.

Feyre lives in a cottage in the woods with her pretty useless dad and 2 older useless sisters.  Because of a promise to her (dead) useless mother, and a crippling sense of duty, Feyre spends most of her time Katniss-style, shooting stuff in the woods with arrows.

Not too far from her home looms the wall separating the humans and the fairies.  Fairies around these parts are nasty, scary, magical beings that you do not want to play with.  When Feyre shoots a wolf in the woods that evening, she tries to tell herself it’s just a wolf, not a fairy in disguise, even though she purposefully uses an ash arrow (their only weakness).

Unsurprisingly for plot purposes, the wolf was a fairy.  When a frightening beast creature comes to claim her life, Feyre must choose between her death or living forever with him on his estate.  Grudgingly she chooses to leave her life of drudgery with her horrible, ungrateful family and follow the beastie into the woods.

When they arrive at his estate Feyre’s beastie turns into a beautiful dude wearing a mask.  His name is Tamlin, and he and the rest of his court were cursed at a party that has left them all wearing their masks permanently.  Feyre’s only role in her new home apparently is to eat a lot of food and dress nicely.

I can understand not wanting to live forever in a magical world where everything can kill you, your host is prone to fits of rage, and you’re bored out of your mind–but I don’t understand Feyre’s longing to return to her family.  They really sucked.  Eat some more tarts and go pet your horse Feyre, this is as good as it’s going to get for you.

Tamlin is determinedly close-mouthed about what’s wrong with the fairies, why he is wearing a mask all the time, and why Feyre can never return home.  Despite the fact that Feyre is there for murdering one of his buddies, he’s pretty pleasant to her.  We all know where this is headed but I feel like the author rushes it.  One moment Feyre is raging about being trapped with rude horrible fairies and the next she’s skinnydipping with one.  Nothing really happens in the interim that makes that feel natural.  For instance, no one builds Feyre a gorgeous library because she’s illiterate (FINALLY FINALLY an illiterate character, I was literally just pining for one two posts ago).

However, even if the transition is worked a bit awkwardly, Tamlin and Feyre are coyly flirting all over the place before you know it.  But the bad fairies keep encroaching on Tamlin’s territories and something bad is clearly going on–though no one will explain it to Feyre.  After a particularly bad event, Tamlin decides to ship Feyre back to human-land.

When Tamlin took her, he brainwashed her family into thinking she was caring for their aunt, and also reinstated all their former wealth.  Despite all her earlier bitching about missing her family, Feyre is only back a day before she’s complaining about being with them.

Finally getting wise to the overarching plot of her storyline, Feyre realizes that by leaving Tamlin she left him in danger.  She finds her way back to his estate only to find it abandoned.  One of the servants explains to her the fairy curse, why Tamlin brought her there, and where he is now.

Let me take a moment to tell you HOW specific this fairy curse is.  Like, if someone put a curse on my husband that only a stretch-marked thirty-year old with hip dysplasia, a dachshund, and a dinosaur tattoo could break.

Anyway, despite being told it’s hopeless, Feyre finds the Queen of Bad Fairies (not her real name) and makes a deal to rescue Tamlin. He’ll be freed if she can complete 3 trials set before her OR by answering a riddle the Queen gives her.  I don’t want to spoil the ending but I will just say–the riddle is pretty obvious.  Like even for me and I suck at riddles.

Despite some plot pain points I’ve mentioned above, I really enjoyed this twist on Beauty and the Beast. Supposedly it’s going to be a series, but it is able to stand on it’s own as well.

Demon Princes Get All the Girls

51kLYnddfHL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Lately I’ve been reading a lot of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ type YA. I don’t know if it’s a coincidence, or I’m subconsciously picking out bestiality fanfic, but expect to see several B&B reviews.

In Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge, Nyx was raised from birth knowing that one day she’d have to marry a Demon Prince. Her father had made a bad deal–in exchange for having children, one of the kids would have to be given back in to the Prince. I mean, those kind of wagers really never end in happiness right? and this is no different, as his wife dies after childbirth.

So after that happy beginning…Nyx is not really the happy-go-lucky twin, knowing that she’s going to be a virgin sacrifice. She resents her too sweet and loving twin sister, her harpy aunt, her vengeful father who has been training her to kill her new husband. I particularly enjoy that irony–we’re going to sacrifice you, but also we expect you to save us by killing this dude and freeing us forever.

Arcadia, Nyx’s hometown, is set in the world of Greek Mythology, but has been cut off from the rest of the world since the Demon Prince came to town. There’s a pretty complicated explanation on what happened to the monarchy and why their world’s in danger, and the sky looks like paper, etc. but I’m not going to try to explain that. Basically, there’s some magic that the humans have learned that Nyx is supposed to use to destroy the Demon Prince’s house, and that will bring down his empire too.

SO, Nyx rolls up to the DP’s (I’m tired of typing Demon Prince) crib, and it is like the Department of Mysteries in there, rooms rearrange themselves, doorways change, and most of the doors are locked, courtesy of the hundreds of keys the DP wears.

Oh and of course the DP is smoking hot. Also hot? His shadow Shade, who immediately starts macking on Nyx and making out with her on the sly and trying to help her solve the mystery of destroying DP. Then there’s a weird love triangle going on between Nyx, Shade, and the DP.

I am totally team DP because Shade is kind of drippy, and DP has some great sarcastic lines, plus in general demons have that whole bad boy vibe going on. Nyx is torn because she’s promised Shade she’d help him escape, but also she feels like she’s a Not Very Nice Person, and DP has all the best one-liners and is good in bed.

The pendulum on who she’s into keeps swinging back and forth. DP locks her in a room with all his former dead wives (point for Shade). Shade almost kills her trying to show her a magic room that will help her in her quest to destroy the house and free Arcadia and DP saves her (point DP).

Finally Nyx figures out the secret of the house and how to save Shade and DP, but it’s too late. Then shit gets weird and mad confusing. I understand basically what Hodge is trying to do here, but the ending was very convoluted, and not very satisfying.

So while it was an enjoyable read, I’m taking off ten points for the rushed ending.

Big Bird’s Human Dalliance

imagesI read in some other Goodreads reviews that this book was too similar to Daughter of Smoke & Bone. Obviously the publisher knows that they have some commonalities since they reference it in the blurb…’if you liked that you’ll love this’ type of deal.

Luckily I’m the kind of pessimist that thinks there’s no original ideas left (I mean, Harry Potter existed before Harry Potter) so the similarities didn’t bother me. I still thought this was a good story with enough differences that I enjoyed reading it.

Spoilers ahead:

So Echo is a little kid living in a library (she loves books, I’ve yet to read a character recently who doesn’t love books. I mean, we all love books that’s why we’re reading them. Let’s have a character that’s illiterate please) when she meets a strange bird-lady named who’s a seer. The Ala kind of adopts her—(but not enough that she doesn’t still live in the library and have to steal from everyone to eat…) and introduces her into the magic world of underground bird people. Sounds ridiculous but Grey manages to make the Avicen sound sexy and cool which is not easy when you’re basically describing Big Bird.

Fast-forward about ten years and Echo steals a gift for the Ala’s bday. The Avicen have been at war with the Drakharin (dragon people, of course) for hundreds of years, and there is a legend that only a Firebird can end the war. Fortuitously, the music box Echo gifts the Ala contains a map and a poem that hints at finding the Firebird. Cue adventure time.

Echo hasn’t gotten very far in her quest for clues before she’s captured by a Drakharin (the Dragon Prince himself actually but she doesn’t know that). Through a serious of unfortunate events she ends up teaming up with him, his best friend/unrequited lover, Echo’s best bird friend, and a gay peacock. And it all manages to sound believable and engaging despite the craziness of that last sentence.

So, yes, it is REALLY similar to Daughter of Smoke & Bone, I mean, we’ve got a human that hangs out with magical people, a quest to end a hundred years+ war, an impossible love story, a girl who discovers she’s reincarnated, etc. etc.  I found the ‘twist’ a little predictable, I think the author could have pulled back a bit in her foreshadowing to make it more of a surprise, but I’ll definitely be picking up the rest of the series when it’s available.

Who doesn’t have a mysterious past?

The prologue of Libba Bray’s The Diviners (Little, Brown 2012) finds a ditzy debutante worried that her 18th birthday party is turning out to be a big snoozefest.  Naturally this would be a tragedy of epic proportions so she breaks out her newly acquired antique Ouija board for some seance fun. It’s 1926 and the occult is all the rage (along with jazz and under-the-table hooch) so it actually works.  Those crazy kids raise a spirit who calls himself Naughty John and starts spelling out “Whore” over and over, so you know he’s a real prince of a ghost. In their haste to move on to the next fun activity, they neglect to bind the spirit back to the board, but I’m sure there won’t be any negative consequences to THAT decision.

Elsewhere, party girl Evie O’Neill has been banished from her small Ohio town after announcing that the town golden boy has knocked up a local chambermaid.  The boy’s parents are demanding a public apology, but Evie refuses to give one because she knows it’s true. See, she has the ability to psychically divine all sorts of things by touching an object and tends to trot out this ability when she gets drunk at parties. So she’s shipped off to live in New York City with her Uncle Will, a professor and curator of the Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult (aka the Museum of of Creepy Crawlies). Also running around New York City are:

  • Jericho Jones – Uncle Will’s stoic assistant/ward. He has a mysterious past.
  • Sam Lloyd – a con artist with the talent of going unnoticed. He develops a thing for Evie and has a mysterious past.
  • Mabel Rose – Evie’s serious best friend who is the dutiful daughter of well-known communist rabble-rousers. She’s pretty boring.
  • Memphis Campbell – a black Harlem numbers-runner who’s charming on the outside and tortured on the inside. He just wants to write poetry and take care of his little brother, but he has a mysterious past haunting him.
  • Theta Knight – this glamourous Ziegfeld girl lives in Uncle Will’s building and is running from her mysterious past.
  • Henry Dubois – Theta’s “brother,” roommate, and piano accompanist.  He doesn’t get much to do, but I’m sure he has a mysterious past too.

Oh, and Evie is not the only character here with special powers. Anyway, when Uncle Will is asked to consult on the brutal, ritualistic murder of a young girl, Evie accidentally touches something that gives her insight into the murder.  From there, Evie, Will, and Jericho race against time to stop the psycho serial killer and possibly armageddon as more mutilated bodies pile up. If you’ve realized that the prologue might have something to do with this plot, then you’ve clearly read a book before. While that’s going on, the characters begin to meet and connect in ways that I’m sure set up the other three books in the series.

My love of thieves and spies is pretty well-known by this point, but have I mentioned how much I love stories about people with special powers? It all started when I read Matilda as a kid and ever since then, I’ve been a sucker for them. Probably because I not-so-secretly wish I had super powers. Though not just any super power. Telepathy or talking to the dead would suck, but I would love teleportation or telekinesis.  Because I’m lazy.  So hearing that Libba Bray, whose book Beauty Queens I loved so much, was writing a supernatural series about people with special powers I was psyched. Psyched enough to overlook my usual aversion to historical fiction. I usually get too distracted by the historical details and vernacular to full enjoy the story. Also, the real-world treatment of women and minorities during those time periods makes me feel stabby, which also makes it hard to fully enjoy the story.

Unfortunately, I was underwhelmed.  The narrative feels overly stuffed and I think Bray is trying to do too much here. Granted, Beauty Queens, my only other Libba Bray experience, was similar so maybe that’s her style, but since that was a hilarious satire, it didn’t bother me so much. The central murder mystery is very strong (and gross), but I couldn’t get into the rest of the story. Now I know that a lot of set up is required with a world this complex, but the non serial killer parts felt like nothing but set-up. Eventually it was like, “oh, here’s another scene where someone hints ominously about some vague threat in the future. And SURPRISE, everyone is mysterious.”

There is much to like in this book.  The writing is great and the characters, while not always likeable, are interesting and sympathetic. I just couldn’t get into it as much as I wanted to and I’m not sure if I’ll be picking up the next book in the series.

This is not the Underworld with Kate Beckinsale in a pleather catsuit

So I don’t actually remember much of what happened in Abandon, the first book in Meg Cabot’s trilogy based on the Persephone myth. Look, I read it over a year ago and SOMEONE (Anastasia Beaverhausen) never reviewed it like she promised. Here’s what I do remember though: a girl named Pierce dies and goes to the Underworld where she meets John, the hot guy in charge.  He becomes so smitten with her that he lets her escape and then mysteriously shows up any time someone is threatening her and beats the crap out of them.  But there are Furies, beings that have escaped the Underworld, who want to take revenge against John by hurting the woman that he loves.  When John and Pierce find out that her crazy bitch of a grandmother is a Fury, he kidnaps her and takes her to the Underworld.  Like you do.

The sequel, Underworld (Scholastic 2012), picks up with Pierce hanging out in, you guessed it, the Underworld, and trying to think of ways to escape.  Sort of. She still has the hots for John so she’s not trying that hard.  Plus they’re not even in the Underworld that long (which is too bad because I wanted to see more of it), because Pierce sweet talks John into taking her to the mortal world because she is afraid that the Furies are going to target the rest of her family in her absence.  Along the way they encounter more Furies and a vast conspiracy that may just date back to John’s original death 200 years prior. Oh and Pierce (halfheartedly) tries to avoid doing anything that will force her to stay in the Underworld forever just like Persephone.

I love Meg Cabot. She’s the reason I started reading YA books as an adult. Her books usually feature smart and spunky heroine who are so much more well-rounded than Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefiled, the standard YA heroines when I was an actual teenager.  And yes, I’ve always thought her characters were too obsessed with finding true love in high school, but that’s probably more true to life than I’d like to admit.  That’s why it pains me to write this: there’s kind of a Bella/Edward dynamic going on in Underworld. A hero who falls immediately  for the plain, compassionate heroine and then goes to irrational lengths (i.e. kidnapping her) to keep her safe? Check. The heroine with only one or two personality traits (loves animals and will do anything to help the people she cares about) who is not nearly as mad about the kidnapping and being tricked as she should be and is constantly needing to be rescued?  Check.   Now to her credit, unlike Bella Swan, she really doesn’t want to become the Queen of the Underworld just so she can live forever with her boyfriend, but (SPOILER) when it does happen without her full knowledge, she kind of shrugs it off.

The plot is fine, though I wasn’t overly invested.  Mostly because the purpose of the story was to deepen the relationship between Pierce and John and set up the climactic book of the trilogy.  I don’t really care that much about the two main characters and therefore am not really invested in their relationship.  And set-up might be necessary, but it’s never as interesting as action.  That being said, I have high hopes for the last book in the trilogy.  It looks like Pierce is going to take a more active role in the fight against the Furies and all the set-up could lead to somewhere interesting.

Though the last couple of paragraphs might suggest otherwise, I didn’t really hate this book.  It  is well-written and an entertaining enough read, it just isn’t up to what I consider to be the Meg Cabot standard.  I’ll be waiting to see if she can reach it with Awaken, the third book in the trilogy.  I really hope that Meg can end the series on a high note.